Google is not normally known as a latecomer to any market. From the late 90s onwards, the technology giant has usually been an innovator rather than a follower, but with social networking it came very late to the party. Too late, it would seem.
Almost lost in all the news about the iWatch launch was the announcement on Monday that Google+ as we know it will soon cease to exist. Launched in June 2011 as a rival to Facebook, it was always a brave venture, even with the might of Google behind it, and although it has over half a billion active users, it never really caught on as a standalone online destination.
You could argue that Google+ came too late to an already crowded marketplace, but there is also an argument that the way it worked was fundamentally wrong. Most of us techies signed up straight away, but with so many aspects to get used to (Circles, Streams, Pages, etc), it was neither simple nor straightforward. Ultimately, the user numbers were inflated by the number of people who joined by association, Gmail user for example, but it never got near the reach of Facebook.
Google+ as a concept may be dying, but most of the different bits will continue under different names. For example, Photos and Streams will become standalone services, while Google Hangouts will also continue. Even the Google+ name isn’t being totally phased out, but make no mistake, the social network that we knew under that name is no more.
So, if you’re a social media or SEO professional, where does this leave you? One of the few things that Google+ was really good for was building SEO and online profile. The first lesson is not to put all your eggs in one basket – You need to spread your spend and the time you spend online across multiple platforms.
Secondly, don’t rely on external sites for all your SEO and outreach efforts. You need to make sure that your clients’ won websites are fully updated, fit for purpose and optimised. That way, if a major network like Google+ does disappear, you have something to fall back on. You need to employ a mix of media relations, content marketing and social media in order to maintain a healthy online profile.
So that’s it. RIP Google+. I’m not sure we’ll miss you, but you certainly gave us some food for thought, even if it was mostly going round in Circles.